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Finding True North Despite the Magnetic Pull of Daily Life

Posted Aug 12 2008 4:20pm

It happened again yesterday. Emails came from strangers whose passion for things like permaculture and sustainability and educating folks about eco-conscious choices filled my morning with replies and checking out web sites and connecting, however, loosely, across miles, through technology.

And I thought of an ad I saw the other day in a magazine, for True North nut snacks. All-natural (not organic), by Frito Lay (which makes it suspect to me) but with a copy line that has been reverberating in my head over and over again. True North is a passion in life which leads to extraordinary things.

Magnetic north, on the other hand, is determined by the pull of the earth's magnetic field, which is currently not aligned with True North. True North is determined by the North Star, Polaris, for direction. It requires your focus to follow, without being pulled in other directions.

And so it is that the largest social movement in human history is happening right now, according to Paul Hawken in his wonderfully delicious book, Blessed Unrest , a book I am reading so slowly because every two pages has another dramatic revelation for me that must be tossed and turned in my mind for awhile before I can go on. Hawken has recognized that across the world, seemingly unrelated advocacy groups and individuals in support of issues having to do with environmental, social justice, and indigenous cultures are working tirelessly for change. Combined, these efforts are earth-moving. In short, there are more people today following their True North, going against the grain, "using imagination, conviction and resilience to redefine our relationship to the environment and to one another" than ever before.

Can't you feel it? Can't you just feel it out there?

As I wrote to a change agent I met yesterday via email, "I continue to have no idea where this journey is taking me, but I have to say that nothing in life has ever felt so right to me." And he replied:

Welcome to the crowd....there are a whole bunch of us saying the same thing...and all doing different things. I have been bumping into a whole bunch of them the last few weeks since I went to my first meetup group.

It seems we all have different specialties and focus but we all have this greater thing we all seem to be driven towards.

There is no set path in all of this; Like they teach you in yoga, you just have to trust and follow your heart and let a lot of the details work themselves out.

And so, as I looked at the stars last night, finding Polaris, the words of Henry David Thoreau, as quoted by Hawken in this book, echoed across my garden, my soon-to-be-city, my country and continent to the far edges of our FoodShed Planet:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will seem less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness . . .

So, today, as I feel the magnetic pull of work and school and the lawn that needs mowing yet again, I will remember to look up, where Polaris will shine once again once it is dark enough to see it, and I will trust that I, and you, and all of us working tirelessly for a cause we can't really define, for reasons we can't explain, are making a measurable difference. Perhaps even an astronomical one.
Nurturing sustainability close to home and around the world. (And other food for thought!)

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